MARKETS paused for breath after a recent strong run as London's top-flight shied away from a fresh assault on all-time highs.

The FTSE 100 Index finished flat, ending 1.4 points down at 6873.6, having climbed to its highest close in six years in the previous session on the back of continued optimism surrounding the US economy.

It is now less than 60 points away from a record high but has resisted the lead of New York's Dow Jones Industrial Average, which has set new records.

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Asian markets enjoyed a strong session amid favourable economic indicators and the Dax in Frankfurt, trading above the 10,000 for the first time, saw small gains but Paris's Cac 40 was flat.

On currency markets, the pound dropped a cent against the greenback to 1.67 US dollars amid strong jobs data in America, while it held firm against the single currency at 1.24 euros.

London's flat performance in equities came despite more healthy figures from the Office for National Statistics on UK manufacturing.

It reported year-on-year growth for the sector reaching a new high of 4.4 per cent in April, adding to hopes that the overall recovery accelerated in the second quarter.

In corporate news, Imperial Tobacco rose 20p to 2623p after it announced plans to spin off its Logista distribution unit through a flotation in Spain.

Brewer SABMiller set the pace amid continued speculation that it could be a bid target for Anheuser-Busch InBev, which makes Budweiser and StellaArtois. Shares rose nearly 6 per cent or 182.5p to 3460p.

Fashion retailer Next was among the top-flight fallers after it announced the departure of long-serving product director Christos Angelides to US firm Abercrombie & Fitch. Shares fell nearly 2 per cent, or 110p, to 6515p.

Also lower was BG Group after Exane BNP Paribas said the market was underestimating the task required to turn around its performance. Shares in the oil and gas exploration firm fell 8.5p to 1242.5p.

Broadband firm BT was the biggest faller, off more than 2 per cent, or 9.6p, to 396.5p, after rival Sky Sports announced it will launch a new channel dedicated to European football next season.

Outside the top flight, shares in Ted Baker were 4 per cent lower despite the fashion chain notching an 18 per cent rise in group sales amid strong demand for spring and summer collections.

Cantor Fitzgerald upgraded its 2015 profits forecast to £45.5 million from £43.5 million and highlighted the significant opportunity for the retailer in terms of online sales. Shares opened higher but ended 84p lower at 1935p.

The biggest FTSE 100 risers were SABMiller, up 182.5p at 3460p, Smith & Nephew up 25p at 1100p and Weir Group up 43p at 2677p. The biggest fallers were BT down 9.6p at 396.5p, International Airlines Group down 8.3p at 412.6p and Mondi down 22p at 1097p.